Thursday, 2 July 2015

JJ Abrams says Uncharted 2's opening is the best ever

In an interview with the Official PlayStation Magazine, Nolan North, video game actor par excellence, shares an interesting quote from Star Trek and Star Wars director JJ Abrams.

"He said the opening of Uncharted 2 was the best opening of a game, television show or movie he's ever seen," North told the publication.

Upon replaying the game, on PlayStation Now, Uncharted 2's opening is a masterclass in gameplay mechanics and storytelling. Of course the opening to Naughty Dog's other franchise, The Last of Us, could be regarded as superior.

Nolan North went on to say JJ Abrams cast him in Star Trek Into Darkness based on the Uncharted franchise.

What do you think? Is BioShock better? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Marvel's Ant-Man is James Gunn's fave since Iron Man

Director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) raved about Marvel's Daredevil and now it's Ant-Man's moment of triumph in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Gunn posted his review on Facebook:

"Ant-Man may just be my favorite Marvel film since Jon Favreau’s Iron Man (well, maybe excluding one film to which I’m partial). Honestly, the movie is a complete blast! I was so happy after seeing it. It’s never boring for a second and it’s hilarious and warm throughout. It doesn’t get caught up in the webbing of its own science-fiction concept like so many movies do these days, remaining simple and elegant. It’s a part of the Marvel universe without being ruled by that fact..."

Naysayers have suggested the movie would be a disaster following the departure of Edgar Wright from the project. However, Ant-Man looks like a fun heist movie in the wake of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ant-Man will be appearing next in Captain America: Civil War.

Marvel's Ant-Man is released in theatres July 17th.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Next Starfleet voyage is Star Trek Beyond

Director Justin Lin took to Twitter to announce the title of his forthcoming Star Trek movie, which began production in Vancouver last week and reunites Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana and Simon Pegg.

Star Trek Beyond.

Justin Lin has taken over the helm of the successfully rebooted franchise following JJ Abrams departure to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

"It's all new and fresh," Lin told Deadline Hollywood earlier this month. "The Klingons, Romulans, and other species are great, but it's time to go further. It has been fun to focus on creating whole new worlds and species."

After Star Trek Into Darkness reprised The Wrath of Khan, what are you hoping for? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Spider-Man joins Captain America: Civil War

British actor Tom Holland, famous for playing the titular character in Billy Elliot the Musical, will replace Andrew Garfield and take Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time. Holland's acrobatic dance moves will come in useful as the web-slinger.

Many assumed this when Marvel and Sony announced their closer collaboration, on the cinematic franchise, earlier in the year. Tom Holland will first appear in Captain America: Civil War in 2016 before embarking on a new standalone Spider-Man movie, directed by Jon Watts, for Sony Pictures.

Are you excited that Holland’s Spider-Man will appear in Captain America: Civil War? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Oscar-winning composer James Horner dies in plane crash

Deeply saddened by the news of Hollywood film composer James Horner's death in a plane crash. The first I heard of this was, as is now often the case, on social media.

It's not hyperbole to suggest James Horner, alongside John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, scored the soundtrack to my life.

From Battle Beyond the Stars to Krull and Captain EO to Willow. Horner's golden age in the 1980s informed and enriched films, childhood playtimes, lively teenage academic debates and countless hours in darkened edit suites.

Here's my top ten James Horner film scores (in no particular order):

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
An American Tale
The Amazing Spider-Man
Field of Dreams

In this clip James Horner discusses his creative process for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Thank you for the timeless musical odysseys. RIP James Horner.

Monday, 22 June 2015

When LEGO Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

The last time I played a Jurassic Park game was on the SNES. That was 22 years ago when Steven Spielberg's dinosaur opus ruled the world on the big screen and toy stores everywhere.

Fast forward to today and the franchise's fourth instalment - Jurassic World - has eclipsed Marvel's Avengers with the biggest opening weekend in Hollywood history. Critics, myself included, have raved about the franchise's resurrection under the stewardship of director Colin Trevorrow and executive producer Steven Spielberg. So, when Rob kindly offered me an opportunity to review LEGO Jurassic World for the lauded The Bearded Trio, how could I refuse?

LEGO + dinosaurs = WIN!

LEGO video games are a superior breed of tie-in. From Indiana Jones to Star Wars and DC Comics to Marvel, Telltale Games has, for the most part, delivered compelling gaming experiences replete with knowing nods to the beloved properties they're based on. Not only delighting children, but savvy adults, too. The pick-up-and-play mechanics welcome both new and veteran gamers, and are perfect for dipping in and out of at leisure.

The memory of playing LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga on an Xbox 360 is indelible. This is where Jurassic World takes its inspirational cue by bundling all four Jurassic Park movies into a magical brick tour of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna to the strains of John Williams' iconic themes, original movie dialogue, sound effects and tutorials given by Mr DNA himself.

The game opens with the classic scene from Jurassic Park in which a Raptor is being delivered to the original park. This segues to Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler fossil hunting in an archeological dig prior to John Hammond, CEO and creator of Jurassic Park, taking the couple, by helicopter, to Isla Nublar. Once on the island, players can choose between Jurassic Park or Jurassic World.

The scope of the game is vast and nothing's been cynically cut for future DLC cash-in. I spent ages simply wandering around the main street in Jurassic World because there's countless fun things to see and do. An awesome coop mode brings much fun when playing hide and seek with Indominus Rex. There's oodles of Telltale Game's trademark self-mocking humour from the Raptor kitchen scene in Jurassic Park to the long grass moment in The Lost World.

LEGO has always been about creativity, experimentation and puzzle solving. This DNA pervades the whole game and you'll be able to unlock playable dinosaurs, including the rampaging T-Rex, and create your very own hybrid dinosaur by collecting LEGO amber, which is akin to building custom minifigs. What's not to like?

LEGO and dinosaurs are synonymous with my childhood, as they maybe with yours, and I may have had a tear in the eye reflecting on halcyon memories. This maybe the best LEGO tie-in to date and that's saying something... But, wait, what's that LEGO Dimensions meteorite on the horizon?

**** out of *****

LEGO Jurassic World is available now on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, 3DS, and PC.

This review originally appeared on The Bearded Trio.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 premieres this Saturday

This Saturday sees the return of Star Wars Rebels in a one-hour special event on Disney XD.

Darth Vader continues his pursuit of the surviving Jedi and our intrepid band of rebels are no match for the Lord of the Sith in The Siege of Lothal.

Anakin Skywalker's apprentice Ahsoka Tano is back in the fray following her shock return during the season one finale. Will the former master and apprentice clash?

The new season of Star Wars Rebels continues in the Fall. Excited? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Matrix Reloaded

In another very occasional retro review, this time originally published in Starburst magazine, I revisit The Matrix Reloaded. In the years since, I've concluded The Matrix, like Jaws, never needed a sequel. However, there are visceral thrills to be had in its first sequel...

Artfully blending the film noir of Dark City (1998) with Alice in Wonderland and Marxist cultural criticism, the Wachowski brothers breathed new life into late 1990s Western action cinema with the release of The Matrix (1999).

During the first hour of Reloaded it is as if George Lucas somehow downloaded The Phantom Menace virus into the creative database of the Wachowski Brothers, infecting the once lean stealth-like Matrix with endless discussion and senatorial deliberation!

The bloated sequel ironically now reflects the Star Wars franchise, which it so devastatingly broadsided in the summer of 1999. However, the issues are very different. Whilst Menace was bereft of a cohesive and engaging story. This second act is a rich semiological montage of academic musings and high-octane opium that commands repeated viewing!

The arrival of Persephone (Monica Bellucci) raises the sexual tension and Reloaded takes flight, never ceasing to amaze and astound. Culminating in a breathtaking car chase. In less assured hands this 15 minute freeway frenzy would have been unsustainable, here it becomes quintessential cinema. Sending out seismic shock waves that will be felt for years to come. A convincing reminder of the audacious and adroit talent of the Wachowskis and their production team.

The star of the movie is unquestionably Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who is the emotional counterpoint to Neo's (Keanu Reeves) detachment. Trinity is an angular and androgynous shadow dramatically aspected against state-of-the-art bombast.

By the pale moonlight, a haunting silhouette of Neo instantly transforms into an homage to both Batman and Superman. Sending shivers down the spine of this comic book fan!

It appears that even Neo isn't immune to the curse of Narcissus. But, Reloaded is a pool worth diving into. You'll emerge in delirious anticipation for Revolutions.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

New NOW TV Box coming this August

Back in August 2013 I reviewed the first generation NOW TV Box and congratulated Sky on releasing a Roku LT-based device at a very competitive price point.

This August sees the release of the second generation NOW TV Box. This time based on a Roku 3. The new model will include an updated remote with two quick action buttons, an Ethernet port, USB & microSD slot, is 5x faster and will retail at £14.99 (includes an HDMI cable). Sky has subsidised the price of this rebadged Roku 3, which normally retails for £99.99.

The first NOW TV Box was limited to 720p whereas the new NOW TV Box can output 1080p. Whether or not Sky will enable this feature for live streaming or on demand remains to be seen. Hopefully live content will be streamed at 720p as on the NOW TV app for Apple TV.

In further NOW TV news. The app will be updated across devices with a new user interface, making it quicker and more intuitive for customers to discover and watch the content they want. More features, including automatic playback of the next episode in a box set, will be added in the coming months. Auto-play is already available on Amazon Prime Instant Video and Netflix.

Stephen van Rooyen, Chief Marketing & Digital Officer, Sky commented: “NOW TV has established real momentum since it launched nearly three years ago. The acceleration in our customer growth shows NOW TV is attracting customers in a way that is complementary, not at odds, with the Sky TV service. As with the Sky platform we are committed to constant improvement so we can produce the best experience for customers as well as developing exciting new services and features for them to enjoy.”

Sports fans can now buy a Sky Sports Month Pass for £31.99 without a contract.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Jurassic Park twenty-two years later

"Bigger, scarier, cooler..." intones Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) and for the most part Jurassic World with its Indominus Rex, a T-Rex hybrid, matches that expectation with surprising aplomb. It's the best Jurassic Park movie since the iconic original graced cinema screens 22 years ago.

Whereas Jurassic Park director Steven Spielberg's first sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park floundered as King Kong remade with a T-Rex and Jurassic Park III was a fun reprise of the original, but did nothing to push the franchise further. Director Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World, executive produced by Spielberg, delivers the realisation of John Hammond's dream: a working theme park populated with dino attractions, IMAX 3D theatre and Starbucks, yes, Starbucks. This is the sequel franchise fans have waited for.

I've been a self-confessed Steven Spielberg fan since childhood and the opening title sequence, replete with the mythological Amblin logo underscored by Michael Giacchino's lush orchestrations reprising John Williams' Jurassic Park theme, brushed away any last minute cynicism I may have had following the lukewarm trailers. It also presciently grabbed the attention of cinemagoers staring into their smartphones.

The first act is a surprising and clever deconstruction of the Hollywood blockbuster and capitalism, as the scene is set in a bustling, sunkissed, theme park filled with jaded, affluent, visitors from around the world. This is best illustrated when a Mosasaur surfaces to eat a shark (a knowing nod to Jaws) whilst many members of the audience, including one of principal characters, are mesmerised by their smartphones until the creature splashes back down forcing them to look up in wonder for the first time.

Dinosaurs have dulled over the past 22 years and are in need of yearly upgrades in the era of generation selfie. Enter Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her latest attraction Indominus Rex or iRex as I like to call it. Indominus exists to satiate investors by getting paying visitors through the gates. The audience laughed out loud at the suggestion of a 'Pepsisaurus' by resident geek Lowery (Jake Johnson).

Inevitably, Indominus escapes her paddock prison and monster mayhem ensues with a little inspiration from Aliens, Gremlins 2 and Predator along the way. Things get stifled, but not derailed, by Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio). Brilliant as the complex Wilson Fisk in Marvel's Daredevil, here D'Onofrio's Ingen subplot to weaponise the dinosaurs detracts from the absurd chaos to be had. And Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) is an uneasy mashup of John Hammond and Dr. Ian Malcolm.

Chris Pratt plays the archetypal B-movie hero, Owen, with panache, but Claire's cliched transformation from ice maiden to action heroine isn't necessary as the mismatched couple searches for her missing nephews: cut-off and lost when an attraction is closed down and they fail to return. However, it's perhaps disingenuous to take too much issue with such a fun homage to Spielbergian adventures of yore, spearheaded by a likeable cast, which does serve as an anarchic satire with a healthy dose of horror. Joe Dante would approve.

Jurassic World, more often than not, rekindles a sense of fear and wonder absent from many current blockbusters and the previous Jurassic Park sequels. Spielberg's oeuvre informs the very DNA of the movie and, during its best moments, he could have been at the helm, himself. I didn't want to leave Isla Nublar and its dinosaur inhabitants behind...